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ULTIMATUM: U.N. chief demands that Syrian chemical weapon stockpile be destroyed

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 10th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The clock is ticking between possible strikes by U.S. forces against Syria for that government's use of chemical weapons on civilians . in the meantime, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging the Security Council to demand that Syria transfer its chemical weapons stocks to areas in the country where they can be safely stored and destroyed.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - As the collective world holds its breath over a forthcoming report from the site of the August 21 suspected chemical weapons attack, the U.N. chief says he's considering proposals he can make to the U.N. Security Council when he presents the team's findings in the coming days.

"I'm considering urging the Security Council to demand the immediate transfer of Syria's chemical weapons and chemical precursor stocks to places inside Syria where they can be safely stored and destroyed," Ban said.

A team of United Nations experts who visited Syria and took environmental and medical samples are the authors of the forthcoming report.

If the report confirms the use of chemical weapons used in the deaths of hundreds of innocent people on August 21 outside Damascus, it would be an "abominable crime" to which the international community would have to respond, Ban warns.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for the Syrian president to surrender control of "every single bit" of his arsenal to the international community by the end of the week.

Russia, Syria's closest ally in the current crisis, has proposed that Syria put its chemical weapons under international control to prevent a possible U.S. military reprisal. Reports quoting Syria's foreign minister appear to welcome the offer.

"I think it still would be a very positive step forward and might be the one open door left to President Assad to hold off a very serious military strike - which obviously would threaten the Assad regime, and certainly his chemical, military forces and command and control," Paul Walker, program director at Green Cross International and an expert on chemical weapons says.

"Part of it would depend to what extent their chemical agents are alive - in other words -- are they already prepared? Are they loaded into weapons? If they are it could be quite dangerous," Walker added, noting that moving such stockpiles is very hazardous work.

If the chemicals are separate from the weapons and haven't been pre-mixed into a live agent, Walker said they still are toxic, but can be moved much more safely.

If Assad signs the convention against chemical weapons, he would be required to immediately declare all of his stockpiles, Walker says. Then inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague would come and inventory the cache. After that the destruction program would begin.

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